Nate Mell, Felt+Fat CEO, Provides Insight Into Operating a Company Without a Formal Business Education

A common question posed by people contemplating life and career choices is, “how important is a business degree if I want to run a company?” There are great arguments on both sides of this question, and the answer you receive will likely depend on who you ask. In this article, Nate Mell, Founder and CEO of Felt+Fat, weighs in on this important issue.

Previous generations have strictly held to the belief that any formula for business success included the step of getting a college degree and then working long and hard in the field of your degree. If you wanted to operate a company, you needed a business degree. However, in today’s business world, there are ample examples of entrepreneurs that reached the very pinnacle of success without a business degree or without graduating from college at all.

Below are some questions to which you should give serious consideration. Depending on your answers, a business degree may or may not be needed.

What kind of work do you want?

If you are drawn to science, research, or education, a technical degree in that field will be needed to move beyond the most entry-level positions. This does not mean that you can’t run a company that provides research and development without a technical degree. But, it does mean that you are not likely to work your way up to the top.

The top levels of science, research, and education are reserved for those with not just a bachelor’s degree but a doctorate in a technical field. An entrepreneur could conceivably start up a highly technical company and hire employees with the right academic credentials.

If you are more on the creative side, you will find that a business degree is less important. Writers, photographers, artists, web content providers, and salespeople find little resistance from a lack of any degree. The problem many creative types experience is that running a company takes them away from the creative work they love.

Do you want to fit into a corporate job?

Even in less technologically advanced fields such as manufacturing and financial services, established companies often create hiring rules and practices that preclude individuals without a business degree, often an MBA, from certain management positions.

Unlike highly technical fields, however, many companies are willing to look the other way and promote an exceptional person to the top. This especially applies to salespeople. An ability to bring new business to a company will often compensate for a multitude of perceived shortcomings.

Do you want to run your own business?

Running your own business is where you will naturally find the most latitude about having a business degree. It is arguably true that, in this case, having a degree in business would be a matter of choice.

However, that is not to say that you will not need the knowledge traditionally attained in pursuit of a business degree. You will. You will need business management and a host of other business skills to shepherd any company to success.

If you want to operate a company without a business degree, it will most likely be your own. If you are willing to take the chance that you will be able to launch a startup and gain the knowledge necessary along the way, go for it. It’s no easy feat, but extremely rewarding.

About Nate Mell

Nathaniel Mell is the founder and CEO of Felt+Fat, a ceramic design, and manufacturing studio serving both professional and at-home chefs. Nate Mell started the Philadelphia-based company in 2014 after graduating from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and working at the world-renown Philadelphia Clay Studio.

Before his foray into ceramic design, Nate gained experience working in various media, including glass, metal, wood, and mold-making. The opportunity to design a beautiful line of plates for Eli Kulp’s award-winning restaurant ‘High Street on Market’ oriented Mell towards exploring ceramic design in-depth. In doing so, he came up with the concept for a ceramic design studio catering to the Hospitality industry. The company name, Felt+Fat, came as a nod to the material explorations and theories of midcentury artist Joseph Beuys, one of Mell’s favorite artists.


Alex is a small business blogger with a focus on entrepreneurship and growth. With over 5 years of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Alex has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, approachable and entrepreneurial-minded blogger. He has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners, and is able to provide actionable advice and strategies for success. Alex has interviewed successful entrepreneurs, and covered major small business events such as the Small Business Expo and the Inc. 500|5000 conference. He is also a successful entrepreneur himself, having started and grown several small businesses in different industries.